The chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease lupus is estimated to afflict over 1.5 million Americans, mostly minority women between 15 and 44 years old. If you have lupus, you may know there’s no cure. However, you can work with your health care provider on treatments and strategies that will lessen the severity and frequency of flares and help reduce symptoms.
The usual medical approaches are:
- Aspirin helps reduce inflammation and blood pressure, preventing the coronary artery problems characteristic of lupus.
- Acetaminophen can alleviate pain, but it has no effect on inflammation, and sustained use can cause liver damage.
- Prescription or over-the-counter NSAIDs reduce inflammation and help with joint stiffness. NSAIDs are a class of medications, and some may be more effective than others. If you’re taking NSAIDs, be sure your doctor is aware of it, because they can produce urine test results similar to those of a lupus flare.
- Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids. These drugs, including prednisone, fight inflammation, but can be habit-forming; you’ll need to taper rather than go off corticosteroids suddenly. In addition, these drugs can have side effects that include acne, enhanced appetite, and irritability.
- Antimalarial drugs work in tandem with other medications to enhance their benefits while reducing the side effects. These drugs are particularly useful against the characteristic rashes of lupus.
- Immunosuppressant drugs tone down the body’s immune response, lessening the severity of autoimmune disorders such as lupus, but leaving the patient more vulnerable to infection.
- Monoclonal antibodies are a new lupus drug that attacks a protein associated with the disease. This is a class of drug called biologic medications that are being investigated for autoimmune diseases.
In addition to medications, pain management methods such as meditation and breathing techniques can offer some patients relief. A medical professional can help you find a solution that works for you.